I was walking into a restaurant to celebrate a friend’s birthday when I heard the news that Russia had attacked Ukraine. Fifteen years ago, I went to Russia with a team to distribute clothing to orphanages and meet with Christians serving there. The country is beautiful, and the people are kind, generous and proud. At every meal, I was persuaded to take a second helping whether I was hungry or not (“You must take some to be polite,” a national team member informed me). Our hosts laughed and showed us photo albums and told stories our interpreter helped us understand.
In Moscow, I was wowed by the sights: the Kremlin, Red Square and St. Basil’s Cathedral. But I probably loved the countryside in Suzdal the best, with its quaint bridges and centuries-old stone buildings. At the orphanage there, children (many with special needs) danced and sang for us. The girls wore frilly dresses and fluffy bows in their hair. The boys dressed in bow ties and dress shoes. A team from my church had spent the week with them, playing soccer and talking to them about the God of all comfort. My 10 days in Russia opened my eyes to a different part of the world and people who God loves deeply.
A time for war
As war erupts in that part of the world, my first reactions were of fear and anger. I’m angry at the injustice and the impending loss of life. I fear where this all may lead and feel helpless to do anything about it. And yet, war is nothing new. Our parents and grandparents — and even we ourselves — have seen war in our lifetimes. It is a symptom of sin in a broken world. And until Jesus returns in glory and redeems the world for himself, war will exist. Here are three things to remember during times of war.
In our sinful world, war is to be expected. Ecclesiastes 3:8 describes it as part of the human experience: “a time for war and a time for peace.” As much as many of us long for “peace on earth,” Scripture paints a different picture for humanity. The pages of the Old Testament are filled with accounts of battle. Even the political climate into which our Savior was born was one of great tension and oppression between peoples and governments.
Speaking of future times, Jesus told His disciples, “And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains” (Matthew 24:6-8).
While it’s difficult to take Jesus’ advice to not be alarmed when conflicts arise, it’s comforting that our Savior told us these things must take place before His ultimate redemption of the world. In addition, He offers us peace in this life that the world cannot give. Because of this, we need not be troubled or afraid in times of conflict.
One day, war will cease. While horrible and devastating, war will not last forever. Consider the words of Isaiah 2:4:
“He shall judge between the nations,
and shall decide disputes for many peoples;
and they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war anymore.”
This passage is describing Christ’s return. Peace is coming. One day Jesus will be King over all the earth; the kingdoms of this world will be His, and His dominion will be complete and permanent. While we suffer war in our world right now, God will ultimately put an end to it.
Our main battle in this life is spiritual. Wars and rumors of wars can become a great distraction. World events can be fascinating (and anxiety-producing), but for Christians they are not meant to be our primary focus. Consider Paul’s words in Ephesians 6:12-13:
“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.”
I love these empowering instructions. Strife in the world is only an outward expression of the strife in our hearts. I may not invade another country, but I may disparage a fellow Christian. I may not seek to wrest power from a neighboring country, but I may try to wrest the power away from someone in my home or at my job. My true battle as a Christ-follower is against sin and the devil’s schemes. I’m told to protect myself with the armor of God: salvation, truth, righteousness, faith, readiness to share the gospel of peace and God’s Word. Whatever battles we face, God has given us the equipment we need, so we do not need to fear.
Prayers for peace
Several days ago, I began seeing prayers pouring out online for these embattled countries. One friend who has traveled extensively and even lived in Moscow and China wrote, “Whose people I have known and loved. How I am broken on this grey winter dawn. I pray for peace and offer intercession for those of you in the battle whose redeemed souls make you my brothers and sisters through our Lord and Christ. And yes, you are on both sides of the horror.”
I, too, am thinking of the beautiful people I met and shared meals with when I visited Russia. I’m also aware of my friends and family in the military and how these events will affect them. I may feel helpless, but the Lord invites me to pray. I can pray for Him to bring peace to the conflict. I can pray for my brothers and sisters in Christ in Russia and Ukraine. I can also pray that many would come to know the “gospel of peace” available through Jesus — because true and permanent peace comes through Him.
In Ephesians 6, Paul writes that as we put on the full armor of God we ought to be “praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints” (vs. 18). In times of war, that is the best thing a Christian can do. God is sovereign and we can trust that His plans to bring peace will prevail.
Copyright 2022 Suzanne Hadley Gosselin. All Rights Reserved.